We’ve referred to many of the games the Lakers have played in the past few weeks as winnable. If they made just three of the 13 free throws they missed against the Warriors on Monday, they would have won. They took the Knicks to overtime and could have taken that game.
But when discussing Saturday night's game, the word “winnable” takes on a different meaning. This wasn’t just a game the Lakers could have won if everything went right. It was a game they absolutely should have won.
Afterward, elder statesman Andrew Bogut had some critical and candid words about his team’s performance.
His thoughts are included in these five takeaways from the Lakers 95-92 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers:
1.) Bogut cut right to the heart of it: This is an awkward season for a lot of the Lakers because many of them don’t know how long they’ll be here. “Guys are frustrated,” Bogut said. “There are some injuries right now, different rotations, guys are frustrated obviously. You would be lying to say that there are guys that are not frustrated on this team. Everyone knows what is going on with the salary cap situation next season and all that. That is just distractions that we can’t let affect us. That is part of the league, the business decisions that front offices and coaches make. So if that is distracting guys, that is going to be like that your whole career, that is just the nature of this league.”
2.) The last shot of the game became a bit of a controversy because of who took it. The Lakers ran a play to get Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a clean look at a three-pointer that would have tied the game. Caldwell-Pope had a bad shooting night. He made only five of 12 shots and 1 of 5 three-pointers. He has not shot well in the three games he’s played since his jail sentence began, making 13 of 45 attempts. Two of his three-point misses on Saturday came in the final 13 seconds of the game. Why did Luke Walton go to him for the potential game-tying shot? The coach probably thought back to the last Lakers’ game against Portland, when Caldwell-Pope hit a three to tie the game with 16 seconds to go.
3.) Walton was furious with the officiating. He got a warning early from referee Bill Kennedy and later got a technical foul, his fifth of the season. Walton leads the NBA in technical fouls committed by a coach, but he has often bitten his tongue postgame to avoid the fines that come with criticizing officiating. In a very measured tone Saturday night, he detailed all of his problems with the officials. “Every night I hear different rules about what’s a foul and what’s not a foul,” he said. “I got a technical tonight. I didn’t know that if you try to draw a charge and you flop the flop is a defensive foul. I guess I was wrong on that. There’s a couple [with] KCP. James Harden shot 20 free throws doing the same things against us. Zo [Lonzo Ball] gets his shoulder ripped. It’s frustrating; we’re trying to teach this young team how to play and what to do and do it properly, and it just feels like every night it’s a different excuse on why we’re not getting calls. What the definition of verticality is. [Kyle] Kuzma shot a three late in the game and I’m sitting there watching, his whole shooting arm gets hit. He can’t even follow through. We’re up one. Three free throws. Maybe we win that way. We could have owned the game. It’s not their fault. We definitely did our part, didn’t do enough on our end to take it out of their hands.”
4.) The lack of energy and focus wasn’t a huge surprise, but Walton felt that his team had gotten past that. He also changed his message. Since he started as the head coach of the Lakers, he’s insisted wins and losses aren’t the sole indicator of how the team progresses. That’s changed a little bit now. He doesn’t want his team members giving themselves that out. “I told them today they’ve set an expectation and a standard for themselves that I now believe they are ready to win ball games,” he said. “I thought tonight was one that we let get away from us.”